environmental sciences

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Policies Of Renewable Energy In The Uk Environmental Sciences Essay

In the past 20 years, electricity production has been increasing dramatically. Increased population and economic growth are two of the main factors that have contributed to the demand for energy. Other factors such as industrialization and globalization can also increase the energy demand of a country. Also, there is a linkage between energy consumption and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions which are important issues when developing a sustainable energy strategy. As economic development takes place, emissions rise. However, these emissions must be reduced because of the climate change threat. There are alternatives to reduce Co2 emissions; this includes supplying more natural gas, providing bio fuels, carbon capture stored by developed technologies and energy efficiency improvement. Therefore, a country must achieve a balance between the energy demand and low carbon emissions by using renewable energy resources. The purpose of this essay is to discuss how a country can meet demand whilst moving towards low-carbon emissions. It will begin by discussing generally about the global demand, then specifically illustrating and evaluating electricity generating initiatives in the United Kingdom (UK), and finally a conclusion.

Global energy demand has increased over the last quarter century by about 60 percent .It is expected that today’s expanding populations and economies will result in continuously large increases in energy demand for the future . Experts have predicted that by 2030, world energy consumption will increase by 50% (Schumaker, 2008).

Renewable energy is an important component for the UK's diverse energy mix. Oil, gas and coal are still vital components moreover; the UK has recently begun to develop in technology such as wave and tidal energy. However, climate change is one of the main issues that affect the environment by the levels of CO2 rising into the atmosphere. Clean coal and solar power are also future ambitions for the UK.

With a population of 61,113,205(July 2009), the UK energy market is currently dominated by six energy suppliers. Together, they supply energy to over 98% of domestic energy customers. (Which UK, 2010). The government sees renewable energy as a substantial part of the UK plan to tackle climate change and sets a target of a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050; this could be achieved by a substantial expansion of renewable capacity (Climate Change Bill, 2008). In the UK, about two thirds of its electricity is still generated by burning coal and gas in power stations. This however, releases million of tones of CO2 which is responsible to climate change. The other third of electricity mainly comes from nuclear power, which has other severe environmental impacts (Green Market Energy, 2000). Renewable energy is known as the cleanest energy sources used as carbon is not produced from its sources. Renewable electricity can be generated in UK from wind, bio fuels and hydrogen.

Over 68,000 wind turbines operate in the UK. The UK has been estimated to have over a third of Europe's total offshore wind resource, which equals to three times the electricity needs of the nation at current rates of electricity consumption. "In 2010 peak winter demand was 59.3 GW, however, in summer it drops to about 45 GW" (BBC News, 2009). Wind power is the second largest source of renewable energy after biomass. It is known as the fastest energy sources as wind turbines operate on a simple principle to produce electricity; a rotary engine known as the turbine consists of rotor blades which uses the wind to generate electricity.

Moreover, the UK government is planning to build the biggest wind farm in the Isle of Lewis, located in the northernmost Hebridean Island, Scotland, which has one of the windiest places in the UK. “Some of the world's largest companies are dangling millions of pounds and economic revival in front of the islanders in return for making Lewis the epicentre of European wind power" (Guardian UK). With 185 wind turbines, this proposed clean green project is so large it would stretch across greater London (BBC TV, 2006). By making it the world’s biggest onshore wind farm, the developers believe that this site will generate enough electricity for a million people. If this project is approved, it is said to increase 7.5 % of UK renewable energy target (Ibid).

The wind turbines are cost-effective and are one of the safest energy technologies, it is also clean and has a sustainable fuel source, it will never run out and it does not create any source of pollution to the environment (no waste or greenhouse gas emissions). Moreover, one 2.5 wind turbine can supply enough electricity to meet the needs of over 1,400 households a year. On the other hand, wind is sometimes not predictable; there might be some days with no wind. In addition, the government are planning to build turbines on the biggest attraction on the island known as the ‘sleeping beauty', as it creates a profile of a sleeping women. Residents argue that this mountain give presence and comfort to the island (BBC TV, 2006). Also, wind turbines can kill endangered birds which are inconvenient to the environment.

Bio fuels are a recent development in the UK; it is a wide range of fuels which are derived from biomass. Biomass is a renewable energy resource made from many types of waste organic matter (both animal and vegetable). ‘If we burn bio mass efficiently, (which extracts the energy stored in the chemical bonds), then oxygen from the atmosphere combines with the carbon in plants to produce CO2 and water’ (Bio fuels, 2000). It is commonly used to generate electricity and produce heat in a variety of ways. Plant material such as wood or hay can be burned to provide heat to raise steam generating electricity in a power station. Also, animal waste can be burned to generate electricity. (Science online, 2001).

There are two main transport bio fuels which are produced using the current technology. They are called 'first generation' bio fuels, bio ethanol and biodiesel. The UK Government supports the production of bio fuels in the country as it reduces greenhouse gas (CO2 reduction) and it is a sustainable alternative fuel source that doesn't compete with food crops (Restate UK, 2009).

Bio mass is a renewable resource, its energy can be used in similar ways to fossil fuels. Also, biomass is readily available worldwide and in the UK. (Science Online, 2001). However, it is a major cause of the greenhouse effect as it recycles carbon into the atmosphere when CO2 is burned. In addition, the Government sets a target of a 5%increase to supply sustainable bio fuels. However, this would require 10% and 45% of UK arable land area to meet the demand (UK Parliament, 2008).

Wave and tidal power can harness the power of the ocean."The wave energy around the British Isles has been estimated to be equivalent to three times the current UK electricity demand, with the potential to convert a sizeable fraction of this wave energy to electricity" (Wave Power,2009). Wave power could provide a significant proportion for the UK's electricity needs in the future (Green Market Electricity, 2000). By wave power machines, wave energy can be extracted and converted to electricity. One type of tidal energy which is currently used is the tidal stream (or marine current). This technology converts tidal energy to electricity that generates water flow both into and out of a bay (DDCC, 2010).

On the Isle of Islay, Scotland, wave-powered generator of a 250kW produces electricity for 500 homes. Also, 'Pelamis'; a giant sea snake is an alternative wave-powered generator that floats on the ocean surface to generate electricity. This system is already offering a part on the national grid but it has the potential to increase the production of energy (BBC News, 2009). Wave power doesn’t require fossil fuel, as it is clean and renewable.

“Tidal energy has potential to become a viable option for large scale, base load generation in Scotland. Having reduced environmental and ecological impacts and being cheaper and quicker installed, tidal streams are currently the most attractive method” (Tidal Energy, 2009). The proposed Stingray project is important to demonstrate the potential for the tidal energy industry in Scotland (Ibid). Moreover, according to the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC), tidal resources could provide at least 10% of the UK's electricity.

Tidal and wave energy are renewable sources, and clean source of energy, it produces electricity reliably and creates no greenhouse emissions; (no carbon dioxide or any other by-products released). Despite the fact that it's expensive, the technology hasn’t been fully developed yet.

To protect the environment for future generations, it is vital that we move rapidly to a more sustainable lifestyle, reducing carbon emissions of greenhouse gases and consumption of limited resources.

Generating electricity from new sources reduces the country’s dependence upon fossil fuels. As it was examined, both wind and bio fuels are reliable sources for generating electricity. Wave and tidal power are also important proposals for the future as they are clean and renewable. However, the technology has not yet been developed. Wind power is cheap to run but it is not always predictable. Furthermore, the Isle of Lewis project can affect the landscape ecologically.

This essay examined initiatives associated in the United Kingdom electricity demand, benefits and drawbacks and its future ambitions to the country. We have seen that the UK is concerned by climate change threat and plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by using more renewable resources and proposed ambitions. The UK government finds sustainable clean sources of energy a method to meet the demand. As a final comment, a target of 60 % CO2 reduction is a future ambition UK plans to tackle climate change by 2050.


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